Battle of Two Hot Teams: Miami Heat at Houston Rockets

Miami Heat at Houston Rockets
December 29th, 2010 at 8:30 PM EST
Opening Line:  Miami -4
Current Line:  Miami -5
Opening Total: 199
Current Total:  198.5
Opening Moneyline:  Miami -230 / Houston +190
Current Moneyline:  Miami -230 / Houston +190

Luis Scola has continued his strong play in his best NBA season of his career.

Miami enters tonight’s game on fire.  After beginning the season in mediocre fashion, going 9-8, they have went 15-1 since and have improved their point differential to +9.6, giving up the second fewest points in the league at 91.1 a game.  They are scoring 100+ too, with 100.7 points a game.  Houston, unlike in years’ past, is playing a much faster paced game, giving up 103.7 a night and scoring 105.3.  They will put their high scoring approach to the test against the Heat, whose perimeter defense is one of the best in the league.  What makes matters worse for the Rockets is that they may be without their leading scorer Kevin Martin, who is having his best season since 2008-2009, averaging 23.4 a game and getting to the line 8.5 times a night.  If Martin plays, Houston will have a much better chance at covering the spread set by NBA oddsmakers, obviously.

Miami has been dominant on the road, with all but one game of the ten having been closer than ten points.  Houston, however, has won 8 straight at the Toyota Center, which puts the two streaks on the line against one another.  Perhaps that is why the NBA oddsmakers have set the line so close tonight.  James commented on his familarity with Wade and the crew, which he feels has improved a lot, “It took a few weeks, maybe a month, maybe a month-plus for us to feel comfortable with one another on the court. But we figured that out.”

Some betting trends:

The total has gone UNDER In 5 of Miami’s last 5 on thje road.  The total has gone OVER In 5 of their last 7 against Houston, however.  The total has gone OVER in 4 of Miami’s last 5 in Houston and they have lost 5 of their last 7 in Houston, where they are 2-5 ATS in those 7 games.

The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Houston’s past 5 games and they have won all 5 of those games.  The total has gone UNDER in 15 of Houston’s last 21 home games.

Some key matchups for tonight’s game:

LeBron James vs. Shane Battier

Battier has long been considered one of the best, if not the best, defenders in the league.  LeBron is used to facing tough defenders, though, and he has been on a tear of late, scoring 30 or more in 3 of his last 6 games.  In relative terms, LeBron has struggled against Battier in his career, and averages a low-for-him 23.8 points per game against the Rockets.  Battier has a way of shoving players off their comfort spots and forcing tough shots.  It would not be surprising to see James struggle and score less than 20, but anything is possible for LeBron James, so he could go for 40, who knows.  Battier won’t pose much of a problem for James on defense, as his calling card is standing in the corner for the corner three.

Chris Bosh vs. Luis Scola

Scola is most likely going to make his first all star appearance this year.  Riding on the momentum of his outstanding FIBA performance, he has averaged a career high 20.1 points per game to go with his 8.5 rebounds per game, and he will prove to be a handful for Chris Bosh.  Scola has size and strength over the slender Bosh and should look to go inside a little more than usual to draw fouls and penalize Bosh in the paint.  Bosh has got his act together after struggling early in the year and has scored 18 or more in all 6 of his past 6 games.  He’s found his comfort zone playing with LeBron and Wade and is now accustomed to being the third fiddle, but being an effective one.

Houston’s great play at home is the reason for this NBA Pick ATS being so close.  Miami has dominated on the road, as well.  So this promises to be a good battle between two streaking hot teams.

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